Dignified and animated, my friend Sulaiman Khan, the raja of Mahmudabad, opens an Urdu dictionary and reads me the definition of masala: "things conducive to good; occupations; honor, glory; ingredients; spices; a border of a garment such as gold or silver lace." He could be describing the courtly culture of his ancestors, Arab nobility that ruled Mahmudabad, 35 miles from Lucknow, from the 16th century until 1947, when Sulaiman was a child. That's when Independence and the Partition of India and Pakistan changed the fate of the Muslim aristocracy, including the Khans. Although the court is long gone, some of its culture, especially its cuisine, lives on. Lavished with ghee and flavored with costly masalas, it is food that once displayed the wealth and generosity of the nobility.